Luke Skywalker, or Mark Hamill as he might prefer to be known, will be the first formally anointed ‘International Guest of Honour’ at Saturday’s St Patrick’s Day Parade through Dublin.

The new honorary role of International Guest of Honour has been created to celebrate the achievements of an individual from the worlds of business, the arts, or the media, who has a special connection or significant affinity with Ireland.

The role will be an opportunity to recognise and celebrate their relationship with and contribution to our country. Hamill will be a special guest in the Presidential stand to view the National Festival Parade on March 17th.

“The role of International Guest of Honour is something we have been considering for a few years,” said St Patrick’s Festival CEO Susan Kirby.

Eminence

“There are so many examples of Irish people and the diaspora achieving eminence across many different art forms and disciplines worldwide. Many of these have a special connection with Ireland and we want to celebrate and recognise this.”

“Mark has a special affinity to Ireland through his filming of Star Wars and family history and has done much for our film industry. We’re looking forward to welcoming him back ‘home’ to celebrate our national holiday and St. Patrick’s Festival with us.”

In addition to Hamill’s Star Wars connection, research into his family history found that he has a double-link to Ireland. His great-grandmother Elizabeth Keating was born in Kilkenny on 6th December 1873 and left Ireland for America when she was still a teenager.

A second family line connects him to the Harvey family who were Famine immigrants that settled in America. In 1864, Frederick Mumford, a young English sailor was married in New Jersey to Mary Harvey, a recent Irish immigrant. These are Hamill’s great-great-grandparents. The young couple moved to New York City and settled in Manhattan where they had five children.

“Since filming Star Wars: The Force Awakens in County Kerry, Mark has been a great ambassador for Ireland and it is amazing to have someone of such universal – even galactic – acclaim in this new honorary role,” said Fáilte Ireland’s Head of Festivals, Ciara Sugrue

Global

“Fáilte Ireland continues to invest significantly in the St. Patrick’s Festival, an event which not only attracts tens of thousands of international visitors but also showcases Ireland as a fantastic tourist destination to global media.”

Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way has been catapulted to global fame through the last two Star Wars movies, with filming having been undertaken in some of the most spectacular spots on Ireland’s western coastline, from the northern-most point in County Donegal to Skellig Michael off the Kerry coast.

“We are extremely grateful to Mark for his wonderful comments about the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland,” said Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons.

“Our Star Wars campaign, including our films with Mark Hamill praising the beauty and people of Ireland, has been seen by over 8 million people around the world – whetting peoples’ appetites to come and visit the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland.”

“As St. Patrick’s Festival is such a key celebration of Ireland and Irish culture and the record-breaking Star Wars: The Last Jedi has also helped create global awareness of Ireland’s powerful beauty, it is both wonderful and highly appropriate that St Patrick’s Festival has chosen Mark Hamill as the inaugural International Guest of Honour and we are delighted to welcome him ‘home’ to Ireland, added Trish Long, Vice President and General Manager of Disney Ireland.

The St Patrick’s Festival is funded by Failte Ireland, Dublin City Council, the Departments of Culture, Heritage and the Arts, of Foreign Affairs,  and of Transport, Tourism and Sport.  Commercial sponsors include RTÉ Renault, Marks and Spencers and Irish Ferries.

We are on the ground this week in Dublin for the St Patrick’s Festival and in Texas reporting on the Irish presence at SXSW, South by South West, one of the biggest entertainment industry events in the world.